Debating on whether or not to drink one more cup of coffee? If you’re worried about the caffeine keeping you up at night, that’s one thing, but if you’re concerned that extra cup may bring you one step closer to a cancer diagnosis, then stop agonizing and keep sipping!
Studies have shown that far from increasing your cancer risk, drinking coffee may actually confer a protective benefit, and watch-guard agencies are now reversing their stance on the coffee-cancer link. Just last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) overturned its diagnosis of coffee as a possible cancer-causing agent, claiming that there is no conclusive evidence that consuming coffee causes cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed more than 1000 human and animal studies. Before the review the IARC labeled coffee as “possibly carcinogenic,” putting it in the same category as chloroform and lead. After the review, scientists determined there was “no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effect.” In fact, many of the studies showed potential health benefits from drinking coffee.
Researchers, however, were moderate in their claims. Dana Loomis, the deputy head of IARC’s Monograph classification department, told a news conference: “(This) does not show that coffee is certainly safe … but there is less reason for concern today than there was before.”
IARC’s review, published in The Lancet Oncology, did point out another carcinogenic culprit. The analysis showed that drinking a very hot beverage of 65° Celsius/149° Fahrenheit or more might be a contributing cause of esophageal cancer. Cancer of the esophagus is the 8th most common type of cancer, and an extremely deadly one.
“These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of esophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,” said IARC’s director, Christopher Wild.
Of course, drinking beverages at too high of a temperature doesn’t pose as much of a risk as smoking and drinking alcohol do. Researchers also noted that there was limited evidence regarding the hot drink-cancer link, and that more studies need to be conducted. Either way, it’s probably best to let your liquid cool down a bit before enjoying, whether it’s coffee, tea, or water.
Potential Health Benefits of Coffee
According to the New York Times, the panel of scientists who put together the federal government’s 2015 dietary guidelines cite “strong evidence” that 3-5 cups of coffee a day (which they label “moderate” in terms of consumption) is not harmful and could possibly be helpful when it comes to chronic disease prevention. And according to the World Cancer Research Fund International, coffee may help prevent many different types of cancer.
Such claims are backed by systemic reviews that suggest coffee consumption may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some neurological disorders. Let’s take a look at a few:
- One study showed that regular coffee drinkers reduced their risk of liver cancer by 15% for every cup of coffee they consumed.
- A 2012 review conducted by researchers at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of developing endometrial cancer.
- Another study showed that drinking 5 cups of coffee a day may help lower the risk of developing some brain cancers by as much as 40%.
- The USDA submitted new 2015 dietary guidelines suggesting that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee (400 mg of caffeine) a day may help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Sipping the Benefits
Here’s where we need to point out that 3 to 5 cups per day doesn’t mean 3 Starbucks Grande-sized cups. One cup is an actual cup.
If you’re a coffee drinker, it’s best to ditch conventional blends. They are full of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Instead, enjoy the full-bodied taste of organic coffee, which is free of toxins.
And if you can stomach it, black coffee is best. Added sugar, fake sugars, and creamers can negate many purported health benefits. Consider adding a spoonful of coconut oil or pasture-raised organic milk or butter to sweeten up your cup!